He came to the final table with the chip lead, and he finished the night with all the chips in the tournament. Fittingly, it took about twelve hours for Sami Bechahed to use his large chip stack to seize the championship of the first North American Poker Tour event in twelve years on Saturday night. At the final table of the NAPT Las Vegas at Resorts World Casino in Sin City, Bechahed was able to defeat Jonathan Borenstein in heads-up play to take home the $268,545 first-place prize.
Moments of Terror…LONG Periods of Quiet
Coming to the felt on Saturday, Bechahed was in command as the only player with over ten million in chips – 10.57 million, to be exact. He was facing some serious threats down the leaderboard who, if they were able to accumulate some chips, could be a problem. Both Sergio Aido (6.67 million) and Nick Schulman (4.39 million) were right behind Bechahed, with Sandeep Pallampati (4.3 million), Ping Liu (3.095 million), Borenstein (2.2 million), and David Coleman (1.61 million) rounding out the final table. At the start, it looked like these players had a plane to catch, but then a significant period of play went without an elimination.
On the very first hand of action, Aido opened the betting to 200K, and Liu called off the button with a Q-J. Pallampati was in the big blind and defended with a J-4, and the flop hit him hard in coming down J-10-4. Pallampati checked his Jacks up, while Aido fired a continuation bet of 300K. Liu had a piece of the action and called, but he would release his hand after Pallampati went with the check-raise to 900K.
Aido wasn’t going anywhere, however. He had pocket tens in early position and had flopped a set, befitting of the three-bet to 1.6 million chips. Pallampati didn’t think he had what he was representing and moved all in, with Aido more than happy to call. Looking for a Jack or a four to give him a better boat, Pallampati instead saw an eight and a seven complete the board to ship him out of the tournament in seventh place.
After Pallampati picked up his belongings (after barely getting them out of his bag), the remaining six players saw a new leader in Aido and settled in for a LONG battle. For the next three hours, the sextet swapped chips amongst each other…well, all except Nick Schulman. Schulman could never find any cards when he needed them and would eventually get his final chips in with pocket fours against Bechahed’s K-7. A King on the flop put Bechahed in the lead and, once he faded the turn and the river with no four, Bechahed scored the elimination of Schulman in sixth place.
The five players would go to the dinner break in that manner, but there was a hand that was of note. Borenstein and Liu were the parties involved after they got their chips to the center with Liu at risk. Borenstein had caught Liu, his pocket Jacks a sizeable leader over the A-3 of Liu, but the “poker gods” had other ideas. A 3-3-9 flop immediately thrust Liu into the lead, and an Ace on the turn almost cemented the hand for him. Looking for a Jack to turn the tables, Borenstein was stunned to see the case trey come on the river, giving Liu unlikely quads and a double up in the tournament.
Action Picked Up After Dinner…
The dinner break must have energized the players because they wrapped up the action in a rapid two hours following the sustenance. Bechahed, who had reclaimed the chip lead at this mark, was the person responsible for the decimation of the rest of the final table. After Borenstein took down the short-stacked Aido in fifth, Bechahed mowed through Liu and Coleman in fourth and third places, respectively, to enter heads-up action against Borenstein with nearly a 5:1 lead.
On the fourth hand of battle between Bechahed and Borenstein, Borenstein made his stand with a suited 10-9, only to see Bechahed wake up with an A-10 that brought a call. The 3-10-K flop gave each player a pair, but with Bechahed’s Ace kicker, he held a massive edge. That edge only grew with the dagger of an Ace on the turn, cementing the hand for Bechahed. After the innocuous river card (a 7♣) was dealt, Bechahed earned his first-ever major championship with the win in the 2023 NAPT Las Vegas.
1. Sami Bechahed, $268,545
2. Jonathan Borenstein, $168,175
3. David Coleman, $120,130
4. Ping Liu, $92,410
5. Sergio Aido, $71,080
6. Nick Schulman, $54,680
7. Sandeep Pallampati, $42,060
Bechahed joins an illustrious list of players who have captured NAPT titles (the original tour existed from 2010-11). Vanessa Selbst (twice), Jason Mercier, and Ashton Griffin (among others) are just a few of the notables that put a NAPT trophy on their mantle, and there will be more chances for players to join that club. PokerStars, who not only put on an excellent festival but also brought an exemplary live stream, will be announcing soon an extended NAPT schedule that will continue the legacy of the tour. Keep your eyes open…the North American Poker Tour may be coming your way soon!